Two veterans of the Australian fashion industry have launched The Design Republik, an e-commerce business that each month offers a limited number of sartorial sets for pre-order.
This story first appeared in the April 14, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The outfits, which are introduced on the 8th of every month, cost $350 and are designed to coordinate with future offerings as well as work back to previous deliveries. “Every month we aspire to provide the perfect outfit,” said Kate Wallace, who spent two decades at Myer, Australia’s largest department store and other retailers in positions such as creative consultant and senior buyer. Her partner, Garry Wallace, was a founding member of Cotton On, the largest value-driven fashion company in Australia, with eight brands.
Rejecting the traditional fashion calendar that forces retailers to sell apparel out of season, the Wallaces are taking a buy-now-wear-now approach. They’re manufacturing on-demand, which allows them to eliminate waste while lowering their investment and risk in the self-funded business.
“We’re less focused on the seasonal element so we can deliver to the Northern and Southern Hemispheres,” Kate Wallace said. “The existing models don’t work. Dropping a heavy winter collection in the middle of high summer, especially in Australia where it’s 40 degrees Celsius [104 degrees Fahrenheit] doesn’t make sense. By the second week of April, the products are already heavily discounted.
“We’ve been on the path of wholesaling before,” she said. “You can get stung badly by that. We’re trying to do something new. We’re very conscious of making to order and limiting the amount of unused garments. We’re doing a limited run. We anticipate about 1,000 orders. We’ll keep it unique initially and see how demand grows from there.”
The first delivery featured a double-breasted coat in a two-toned bouclé wool, a sand-washed silk crêpe de chine top and spandex ponte pants with vertical panel detail on the side. In addition to the single monthly outfit, an ongoing selection of extras is available, such as leather leggings and waffle mesh tops, and basics, including cashmere scarves, cowl-neck sweaters, boyfriend blazers and leather totes to supplement the outfits.
The first delivery for men was comprised of a hooded wool zip-up coat, knit turtleneck with rib detail and drill pants in a soft enzyme wash.
“We’ve spent the last 12 months perfecting our execution and building an efficient logistical structure that allows us to make this a reality and offer our collection at a true cost,” Garry Wallace said. “It’s not inflated with multiple margin requirements.”
The company uses Australian and New Zealand merino wools, silks and cashmere, Japanese denim and fair-trade organic cotton. “We use the same factories as Armani Exchange and Camilla and Marc, Alannah Hill and Country Road,” Kate said. “Our denim factories make a lot of the European brands.”
Garry said The Design Republik makes donations to environmental charities to offset its carbon footprint, and the Wallaces’ own foundation, Inch by Inch Against Poverty, donates a percentage of the proceeds from its handbag collection to support businesses in developing nations.